Every Basketball Hall-of-Fame class is loaded with all-time greats. But the just-released nominees for the 2023 class are in a tier all their own.
Yesterday, the Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Fame announced their nominees for the 2023 class and it’s shaping up to be an absolute doozy.
At some level comparing all-time greats to all-time greats becomes a meaningless exercise but this group feels special, both for their individual accomplishments and the way they helped define an entire decade of basketball.
Over a 12 year-span from 2003 to 2014, Wade, Parker, Gasol and Nowitzki won 10 titles — Parker in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014; Wade in 2006, 2012 and 2013; Gasol in 2009 and 2010; and Nowitzki in 2011. That’s essentially an entire decade of NBA championships represented by this single group of four players.
There are also the personal connections. Dirk Nowitzki played Dwyane Wade in the NBA Finals twice, splitting the two meetings in a pair of legendary NBA Finals. Gasol, Parker and Nowitzki battled for Western Conference dominance for years. And Wade also played a pair of NBA Finals against Parker’s Spurs, splitting the outcomes.
And then there is Gregg Popovich, who won those four Spurs’ titles with Parker and another in 1999, before Parker joined the NBA. Pop is also the winningest head coach in NBA history and there’s a chance no one may ever catch his 1,354 wins (and counting). To put that total in perspective, Doc Rivers is the next closest active coach. If Pop retired at the end of this season, Rivers could go 82-0 for the next three seasons in a row and still trail by 50 or so wins.
What is the greatest Basketball Hall-of-Fame class ever?
I looked at this question two years ago and had a hard time deciding between 2020 (Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant) and 2009 (Michael Jordan, John Stockton, David Robinson). In the end, I went with 2020 in part because of the iconic nature of all three of those players. This 2023 class, if they all are inducted, might not have hard as large an impact on shaping the aesthetic of basketball or the narrative legacy of the league but they are nearly as decorated.
In the end, I would bump Jordan, Stock and Robinson down to No. 3 and put this Wade, Nowitzki, Popovich, Gasol, Parker class at No. 2, just behind the 2020 group.
So much greatness it can make your head spin.
The final class will be announced on April 1, with the enshrinement ceremonies to follow on Aug. 11 and 12.
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